URBANA, Ill. - Every year somewhere in Illinois, there are conditions and situations that require the homeowner to repair or reestablish areas of the lawn. According to University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Richard Hentschel, sometimes it is not because of lawn insects or a disease outbreak.
“Conditions such as extended drought or the loss of a shade tree that turns the backyard from a shady oasis to hot desert-like conditions can mean reestablishing part of or the entire lawn,” Hentschel says.
Lawns in Illinois can be reseeded in the spring and fall; however, fall is the preferred time, giving the grass seed longer and more favorable weather conditions for establishment. Weed seeds germinate in spring, so fall seeding will mean grass plants that can outcompete spring-germinating weeds.
“Just like our growing season, the window is shorter in northern Illinois than in southern Illinois. Best timetable for northern Illinois is mid-August through the first week in September. Southern Illinois has a much longer window available, extending through the whole month of September, while central Illinois starts mid-August but goes longer into September,” he explains.
Regardless of why repair or reestablishment is needed, similar steps are used to restore the lawn. Hentschel shares that if disease was a causative factor, rake out the damaged and dead turf. Sunken or low spots in the yard invite disease; therefore, be sure to add soil to level or even slightly raise those areas before reseeding. In larger areas needing reestablishment, add the soil and work it in as you prepare the seedbed using the same rule – level or slightly raised, as the dirt is going to settle.
Hentschel says grass seed choice depends on conditions. “Full sun in northern Illinois typically means a blend of hybrid Kentucky bluegrasses. A mixture of sun and shade can mean a mix blend of Kentucky bluegrasses with perennial rye or fine fescues in deeper shade.
“Southern Illinois will find additional choices, including some warm-season grasses that are available locally for the hotter, drier summers. Another option statewide is turf-type tall fescue, which has the growth habit, color, and texture of the bluegrasses with the heat and drought tolerance of the traditional tall fescue,” Hentschel explains.
After the seed is down and lightly raked in, watering is another step that can mean the difference between mediocre and great germination. All grass seed requires a moist uniform seedbed for best conditions. Frequent light watering is much better than a soaking that leaves puddles. In hotter and dry locations, a light mulch of clean straw is very helpful keeping the soil evenly moist.
Mow the new areas of the lawn as soon as they need it, as this helps the lawn grass increase in density.
Visit Extension’s website, LawnTalk (http://extension.illinois.edu/lawntalk/index.cfm), to learn more about selecting grass, planting and maintenance, weeds, and many other lawn-care issues.